You can smell it in the evening air – summer is coming to a close. Soon, the days will shorten, leaves will turn, and painting contractors will be moving inside. Though it may feel early, now is the time to start planning for fall and winter.
Making Your Budget
Before you start thinking about what kind of marketing plan you will do, it’s best to set some expectations and goals. Let’s start with a few questions about your objectives for the next six months.
- Have you established your revenue goals for October through March?
- What will happen to the average job size you produce?
- How many jobs will you need to produce to hit your revenue goals?
- What’s your close rate during this time of year?
- How many leads will you need?
- How many painters do you need to keep busy to achieve those revenue goals? (Remember: feet on the street = revenue)
This is the basic information you will need to start planning. You can use this information to make a winter “Cookbook.” That is, Leads x Close Rate x Average Sale = Revenue. What numbers need to fill each part of the equation to be successful? How much of that revenue will you be spending on marketing?
Where to Start?
All leads are not created equal. A great way to help you find and focus on the good ones is to start with geography. Certain communities, towns, neighborhoods and sub-divisions are more likely to buy professional painting services than others. On a map, think about highlighting the communities that you want to focus on during the off-season. Make it visual. Hang it on the wall so your whole team can see.
Putting a Winter Marketing Plan Together
Using the numbers you put together previously, decide how much you will be spending on marketing and advertising. Cash is tight this time of year, so low cost programs are a premium.
- What programs did you use last year?
- How effective were they?
- When did you execute them?
- Could the timing have been better?
- How will the election in November affect your plans?
- What new programs would you like to be implementing?
Next, put your marketing plan on paper (or computer). Using a coordinated approach is essential to getting the most out of your marketing. Putting a plan on paper, with dates assigned, will ensure you stay at your peak. I’d suggest using a Gantt program. Gantter.com is a free web-based Gantt program that works great. Using a Gantt chart, you can document tasks and dates for each of your programs, and create a timeline for implementation. Share this plan with your team and involve them as much as you can.
One of the best things you can do to keep yourself on track is to set regular check-ins on your marketing plan. Put a reoccurring appointment in your calendar for a marketing review meeting. In our experience, twice a month is great. For example, the 1st and 3rd Mondays of the month. Most importantly, honor the meeting. That means don’t skip them! I have met very few problems that couldn’t wait 30 minutes so that we can stay on track. If other people are involved, you’ll be less likely to skip meetings and disappoint them. You may also need to tell a customer or prospect, “Can I call you right back, in about 30min? I’m about to step into a meeting.” 99% of people are fine with that.
As I mentioned before, get others involve to lighten the load. Having too much on your plate is a great way to lose focus. Delegate some of the work to your team. Use the meetings you set to followup on their work– trust them to do it, then verify they did it at the meeting.
Tracking, tracking, and more tracking. We can make the future (of our business) better, by understanding our past. There are lots of things to track. The basics include how they found you (marketing source) and estimate data (type of job, estimated price, estimated hours, won/lost). There are also lots of tools to use to store the information. The most popular ways we see are MS Excel(r) spreadsheets, and Customer Database programs (CRM’s) like ACT! by Sage and PipelineDeals.com. Both ACT! and PipelineDeals will also help you track sales information as well.
As you track the data, use your regular meetings to review the information. Ask yourself if the results are what you expected. If not, is there an opportunity to adjust?
Make the most of your off-season by putting a plan on paper. Start now to give yourself time to make good decisions, rather than being forced into something at the last minute. Most of all, put it on paper and review it regularly. Track the results, and make each year better.